The theory’s central question is: how we ought to act. Through a cost-benefit analysis, impartial decisions on actions should be made as long as the end result measures an increase of happiness for the majority. To the contrary, Kantian ethics focus on the intrinsic value and moral standing of human beings as rational agents with autonomy; therefore, they must be treated equally and with dignity. An action is not made right according to its consequences but on the consistency of one’s ethical course of action by means of reasoning to attain the right behavior. The main concepts behind Kantian theory are generated from the Categorical Imperative, used as an ethical rule for decision-making to determine the right action.
The action of duty must exclude the influence of inclination so it may only be influenced by the objectivity of the law and therefore subjectively respected by us as good. Kant then goes on to confront the claim that moral worth is linked to agreeable condition and the promotion of happiness by stating that the moral worth of an action lies in the principle and not the effect of the action. Kant claimed that agreeable conditions and happiness can be brought about by too many other causes that do not require human rationality, and that human rationality is the only place where the “supreme and unconditional good” (P.2) can
• Situation ethics can even be a way to approve of what are considered in society as ‘evil’ acts. For example, killing or lying may in fact be right in situation ethics, if it leads to a sufficiently good result. Perhaps, lying to someone to ensure that no pain is caused is a good act? Or even killing a person in self-defence is acceptable. However, surely lying and killing in general are bad acts, so how can they be
Closely observed, their theories could be manipulated to support immoral behavior, or combined to present a more objective basis for determining morality. Kant believed that morality of an action is good when it is based on good intentions, regardless of the outcome. Mill, on the other hand, believed that because we cannot be sure of a person’s intentions, morality can only be measured in the consequences of the action. Based on these contradicting theories, I will attempt to note theoretical similarities between Kant and Mill. Categorical Imperative vs. Utility Kant’s categorical imperative gives precedence to morality over happiness.
Bentham believed humans were motivated by two things pleasure and pain which was a moral fact with pleasure being the sole good and pain the sole bad. Secondly there was the principle of utility which is the idea that an act is right or wrong based on its usefulness. Bentham said “an act is right if it causes the greatest good for the greatest number”. This is a teleological theory. Finally there is the hedonic calculus.
This is a viewpoint that very few rational people could disagree with. For, who wants to see the child molester go unpunished and Mother Teresa's work go without credit or reward? I do think that virtue should be rewarded and vice punished, but I don't think it is as simple as the statement explains it. Who in any case is the judge of good and bad, right and wrong, virtue and vice? Pojman states that, "Our sense of merit, especially regarding desert, seems to cry out for an omniscient and omnipotent Judge to match virtue with happiness and vice with punishment".
Consequently there are many weaknesses of virtue ethics that do not outweigh its strengths. One of the main weaknesses on the theory of virtue ethics is the criticism laid out by Susan Wolf was in her article of “Moral Saints” in which she claimed that if everyone is cultivating virtues they are likely to become boring people and therefore there is no excitement in this world. Another weakness of virtue ethics is the criticism of Aristotle’s concept on the Golden Mean made by Maclntyre. This is the idea that all virtues lies between two vices is wrong. The golden mean does not work for every virtue for example compassion or loyalty.
Moreover, the suitability or unfairness of a doing or rule is exclusively a matter of the general non-moral good created in the significances of doing that act or ensuing that rule. A flaw with the utilitarian method is that utilitarianism, if this method is accepted, may validate morally suitable things that are obviously immoral. A good example of this is that utilitarianism can be used to rationalize punishing an innocent man or enslaving a small group of people if such acts create an enlargement of consequences (sweatshops for cheap labor). But in any circumstance such as this, it is still immoral no matter how productive they might be. Virtue ethics theory is a wide-ranging term for theories that accentuate the part of personality and virtue in moral philosophy, relatively than either doing one’s responsibility or acting in order to bring about good values (Nafsika Athanassoulis).
Duty is something that one is expected or required to do by moral obligation. Kant’s theory of ethics is formed in his book critique of practical reason and his approach is deontological. This means the right or wrongness of the action is the action itself and not its consequences. We should do the right thing because it’s right not because it fulfils our desires or is based on our feelings and from this belief stems his ideas of good will, categorical imperatives and more importantly duty. The idea of good will for Kant is the starting point for morality.
Kant argues that any action cannot be moral unless the motives are moral. For each of these philosophies, the question of living the "good life" is an intricate part of the belief system. For the Utilitarians, living a life that benefited as many people as possible, in essence, a life that caused the greatest widespread good results would be considered a life of virtue. For Kant, the only moral action is one that is done entirely because of obligation. He also makes the distinction between motives, saying that an action can be "in accord with duty" and still be immoral.